Are graphics-only mods valid?

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Malvineous
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Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by Malvineous »

Hi all,

When I started the KeenWiki I was of the opinion that skin mods (those that change only some of the graphics and nothing else) should not be added. Over the years a number of skin mods have been added and then removed, as they typically only change the main player sprite and nothing else.

Recently this has happened again, and I am wondering whether it is time to reconsider this stance. Should graphics-only mods be allowed on the KeenWiki?

In my opinion, most players would be familiar enough with the original game that there would be limited appeal in playing it through from start to finish with the only change being the main character looks a bit different. It seems to me to be a very low-effort mod, in that it only takes a few minutes to change some graphics and declare it as a new finished mod. I have always been of the opinion that if you want your skin mod listed on the wiki so badly, at least add a few new levels to give people something new to play, but for some reason the creators of skin mods never wanted to do this, which unfortunately just furthers my opinion that it's a low-effort mod. The only argument I can think of for having skin mods is that other modders could borrow the graphics for use in their own mod, picking and choosing from various skin mods to avoid having to come up with all new graphics from scratch.

But perhaps I am wrong. What do other people think? Especially those here who have released full mods. Do you think just changing the player sprite is enough to qualify as a new mod with its own KeenWiki page? Or do you think there should be some minimum required before it's considered a legitimate mod?
Pandakeen
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Re: Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by Pandakeen »

Good question. I think it varies.

I can think of a few mods that I think should go on Keenwiki. For example, the Composite CGA Keen 4 and 5 by VileR: https://pckf.com/viewtopic.php?t=3656 These are quite unique and change all the graphics. And I've been working on my own skin mod of Keen 1 which changes all of the graphics.

I think mods that change most or all of the graphics should be allowed, as even though the base levels are the same, it's still fun to see how the graphics have been changed.
Skin mods of lower standards, such as player skins I think are more up for debate. Simply recoloring Keen's shirt red is stupid and shouldn't be on Keenwiki. Commander Kylie by zilem on the other hand looks like it has some effort put into it (though I haven't played it). The Mortimer skin mods by szemi are somewhere in between these, as they just recolor the Keen sprite but the recolor has a bit more relevance than an arbitrary dislike of Keen's default shirt color.
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Quillax
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Re: Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by Quillax »

That's a really good question! It's been forever since I touched a skin mod (unless XkyKeen4 counts). As Pandakeen said, I think it depends. I know you don't want people to spend 10 minutes on a mod and then upload it just to get a KeenWiki article and I don't know if I've ever played a skin mod the casual way (as in, playing seriously, not fooling around just to see the new graphics). However, there are some skin mods that took effort by changing a lot of the graphics instead of just one sprite. Some skin mods have historical value. Some skin mods make a slight change to the gameplay, such as different hitbox sizes. A lot of these skin mods are still hosted in the KeenWiki server, and I'm sure they've been for a very long time now. Will any of the ones deemed unworthy be no longer hosted?

Here are my thoughts:

Skin mods that change most (if not all) of the graphics should be valid. This would include Cybernetic Dreams, DasBrot's mods, Attack of the Silurians, Keen Static, the CGA Composite Keen mods, and -- as soon as this one comes out -- Keen 1 Redrawn. The levels may be untouched, but the new graphics provide a different atmosphere, and they definitely took more than 10 minutes (and even over 10 hours -- and perhaps 10 days -- I say) to be made. Also, it's fun to see the new graphics and how the author worked with the limits of the tileset and original level designs.

Changing only the player sprite or a few bits of artwork is a gray area for me. Andrew Durdin's military skin mods were made before Yorphius II -- the first mod that extensively changed both graphics and levels -- and in that era only one other mod changed the graphics (Keen Static). So I say Andrew Durdin's mods are noteworthy. The little tileset mod Andrew's brother made could also be noteworthy for similar reasons. I suppose Commander Kylie has the novelty of providing a female version of Keen and being widespread through so many games and even mods, so maybe she should have an article (but not one, unique article for each skin mod, just have them all covered in a single article). Recolors (like red shirt Keen or inverted colors) are definitely out, due to the low effort required and besides, I feel like not many people are going to think "Wouldn't it be nice if I could play with different clothes?" I can't really decide on the rest of the skin mods like CGA Keen 1 or English-to-SGA (and vice-versa) translations, though. On one hand, they cover neat ideas, but on the other hand, they're pretty simple ideas that don't really require a lot of artistic talent.

-------------------------------------------------

By the way, I think you would get more replies if you posted this on the PCKF, since that's where all the forum activity is at nowadays. At this point, Keen: Modding is pretty much a ghost town. I might actually link to this topic on PCKF.
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Nisaba
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Re: Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by Nisaba »

I second Quillax' thoughts.

Mods must be substantial in one way or another.
It doesn't make sense to collect have baked modding attempts that eventually got abandoned by their authors. Else the wiki will get flooded with unfinished and pre-alpha state stuff quickly.
Work in progress mods (and I also count abandoned mods as WIP / pre-released projects) are well represented here on the forums. To make the jump to the keenwiki a mod must be in a final, playable, hopefully polished and primarily in a substantial state.

same is true for levelpacks that only alter one level, or skin mods with only one sprite modded. If you ask me, most levels should be completely new, and/or most of the graphics as well. A mod needs to come with a certain level of complexity to be listed. Exceptions can be made for unique mods, like very first modding attempts or the like. but remember: the forums are the place to discuss, show and tell WIP mods. The wiki should be a place where one can find mods that are in their final release stage.

I'm not against skin mods per se as long as they go all the way. Only swapping a characters colour opens the door for categorial arbitrariness. It would be an invitation to a mindset like: "I like the helmet to be blue as this is my favourite colour"... this could also lead to a recognition competition in a sense of who produces most wiki entries. And this would definitely turn into a counterproductive incentive to what we want to achieve
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Malvineous
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Re: Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by Malvineous »

Thanks all, I completely agree with what you're saying. I agree that noteworthy skin-only mods are worth including, and the only reason I've avoided it is because there weren't clear guidelines about why we're picking those skin mods and not another skin mod.

I was also against Commander Kylie at the start for the same reason - only the player sprite was changed so it seemed low effort - but if it has become popular then it should probably be included.

I suppose what we need are clear guidelines on what we deem noteworthy, so when we say to someone sorry we can't include your mod on the wiki, we can point them to the guidelines that explain why. The author of Commander Kylie was pretty upset when I originally removed it so it's something I want to avoid happening in the future, as it was never my intention to upset anyone but certainly back then the rules hadn't been made clear.

Here are some points we could add to the guidelines based on what you've said:

Mods must be noteworthy. This means one of the following:
  • The mod is a complete game - most of the levels are different, most of the graphics are different, the music has been changed, etc.
  • The mod introduces unique gameplay elements not seen before. For example Birdman normally would be excluded because it is only a one-level mod, but because it introduces a new type of gameplay it is deemed noteworthy. (It is also the first Keen 4 mod so perhaps this is a bad example as it would be noteworthy for that reason alone!)
  • The mod is of historical value, such as the first ever mod of a particular game. Without this historical value these mods would be ineligible for inclusion, as they are too small (often only one level or a few new graphics).
  • The mod increases accessibility, such as translating it into a new language or making it work on new devices. Normally these would be excluded because the levels and graphics are unchanged.
  • The mod has become extremely well-known for some reason, so deserves a page because of its popularity, even though it would normally not be considered eligible.
I agree that "first mods" are worth including, because even though only a few images may be modified, it requires a lot of effort to write the first modding tool for a game so it's definitely not a low-effort mod.

I also agree that although I would've accepted one-level mods, these are probably also low effort and should be excluded unless they meet one of the other noteworthy criteria.

I am still in two minds about things like Commander Kylie or Mortimer. Will we end up with mods for African-American Keen, Chinese Keen, etc? I mean on the one hand I don't want to make any non-whites feel excluded, but where do you draw the line? If there was one mod that let you pick the player's race and gender and it supported all those options in the same mod then there's be no argument that's noteworthy because it's a new unique feature, I just think having a dedicated mod page for every single race, skin colour and national flag on Keen's shirt is something I want to avoid!

Maybe someone should just make that mod, squeeze all possible player characters into it, then we can put that one up there as unique and exclude all the others because they aren't first!

With the SGA-to-English idea I also am not so keen on it, but I recall Szemigi having done Hungarian translations I think and those are probably worthwhile because it makes the game nicer for non-English speakers. So if we allow translations then we can probably tolerate an English/SGA switch because in theory there will only be one or two of those and we won't be opening the floodgates in the same way as changing Keen's clothes would.

For CGA Keen 1 I suppose we can tolerate that but I would make the argument that it should only be allowed if it will actually run on CGA hardware, as CGA Keens 4-6 do. If it still requires an EGA but with a reduced colour palette then it's of no help for running the games on old PCs with CGA cards. Likewise I am hoping that someone will backport the VGA routines from some of the open source ID engines and make a 256-colour version of the games that will run on real VGA hardware, so I don't want to exclude that possibility (yes I still want a whole game that looks like that fake VGA Keen 6 screenshot Alex87 posted all those years ago, if anyone remembers that!) I would class Composite CGA Keen in this category so it would be eligible for its own wiki page.

What do you think? Do those points above need clarification or additions?
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Frenkel
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Re: Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by Frenkel »

I can't wait to see my hex edited level for Commander Keen 4 from February 2001 on the KeenWiki. :P
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proYorp
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Re: Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by proYorp »

I wrote a big ol' post about this in the mirror PCKF thread. By the way, you should check there if you haven't yet. Some additional users posted their thoughts there:
https://pckf.com/viewtopic.php?t=12288
Pandakeen
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Re: Are graphics-only mods valid?

Post by Pandakeen »

For everyone not up to date on the PCKF thread, here's all the posts that haven't been put here yet:
Benvolio wrote: I definitely think that a skin mod deserves a place on Keenwiki. (No less than a levelpack with no altered graphics does).

Any project can be an elaborate work of artistic merit or a throwaway minimal effort. This goes for mods, levelpacks and skin mods equally.

I think that skin mods should be categorised separately from full mods, however, as they are clearly a less complete experience and will be enjoyed in a different, probably less immersive way than full mods.

Seeing as the term "noteworthiness" is raised, I agree that this is a criterion for anything to have its own article (this is tye case on Wikipedia itself).

However I do think Keenwiki should be encyclopaedic and complete.

Perhaps a non-noteworthy skin mod (likewise for other types of fan project) could get a listing in the main table but not necessarily need to be linked to its own article if there is really nothing more that needs to be said about, besides that it exists.
Pandakeen wrote: Good that you brought it here. It's crazy that it got as many replies as it did on K:M considering how inactive that place is nowadays. Personally I made an account there just to see the member list, and I wasn't intending on using it again until noticing this discussion pop up there.

Keen Static is literally just Keen 1 with some graphic files from Keens 2 and 3 with a story tacked on. It probably took half an hour to make at most. Maybe it deserves a mention somewhere, but maybe not an entire page.
DoomJedi wrote: This topic (of TC = "Total Conversion" - meaning Art/Sounds) and "is (just) recoloring - modding" didn't skip any modding community, be it Wolf3D or Doom.
Many times it's credits-related discussion in its core, especially about recoloring. Sure then there are pretty automatic recoloring tools.

I think there is 1-2 core things I look for in mods that makes a mod worth separate credit mention.
Credits can be with for 2 things - effort and creative thought (which is subgroup of effort).
Anything that shows enough effort/workload and creative thought/vision by its makers - worth a credit, worth a mention. Not just lazy alteration for the sake of alteration.
Recoloring - if not part of greater vision, effort and thought - by itself isn't worth a credit.
But if one is using someone's recoloring - it's worth a credit, with additional credit to maker of the before-recolored art.
As if it's too little effort to be credited - why to use it and not the original? Why not to recolor it yourself then? By using it - you are admitting it's a worth enough effort.

I have been once or twice myself in the eye of credit-garg, about recoloring and such in my older Wolf3D mods, even was demanded to remove art from my long-released mods (instead of just adding credit when due, when it's obvious to all I credited myself for the extra work, not the artbase familiar to everyone). One time I even was so mad - I remade some enemies from scratch/classic base and released for free modding use on Wolf3D and Doom forum.
proYorp wrote: It's good that this is being discussed. Some of KeenWiki's restrictions seem kind of arbitrary to me.

Including this one. It doesn't really make sense to me why mods should be disallowed purely on the basis that they only change the graphics. It seems to be implied that it's because skin mods are bad or lazy. I mean, artwork can take a lot of effort, more than levels sometimes. Artwork can look really good, and good artwork can take longer to make than levels. By the same token, there can be bad or lazy levels. In a literal sense, artwork is an art. Just as anything else related to modding (the levels, the story, even the enemy behaviours) can be good or bad depending on how much thought, skill, and effort is applied, so can graphics be.

An example I'm going to reference a lot for this is the upcoming mod Keen 1 Redrawn by Pandakeen. You should check it out and look through the screenshots if you haven't already: https://pckf.com/viewtopic.php?t=11948

I am not sure how the idea came about that graphics-only mods are bad or lazy. To be perfectly blunt, maybe no one had made one that was objectively good at the time the restriction was initiated. (I am not thinking of any specific examples here and I am not calling anyone's mod bad, I am just basing this theory on the fact that for some reason, people with a developed interest in pixel art seem to be one of the rarest contributors to the modding scene here.)



It does seem like it would be better to have some system to determine "notability" rather than basing qualification on what is or is not in the mod. Arbitrary qualification seems like it could have an influence on the production of mods, forcing creators to include certain things if they want to ensure that their mod is acceptable for KeenWiki.

I really have to wonder if that's a reason why there haven't been very many skin mods produced, because they are actively discouraged by KeenWiki. I don't know if you know this, Malv, but KeenWiki does have a lot of influence. I used KeenWiki before I used PCKF, to find out what all the latest mods were and to keep up on what was going on with Keen. Being more familiar with the community at large now, I realize that KeenWiki isn't necessarily the best place for that, but to the uninitiated it strongly gives that impression. I mean, it's a wiki; it is implied by nature to be more refined than a forum. For someone that wants to keep up on the Keen community at a distance without reading through a ton of extra discussion they may not be interested in, that is where they will go. There's a huge amount of power that comes with that.

Effort is a hard thing to quantify, because the effort it takes to create something differs between each and every person. For instance, I can draw something that looks decent but it typically takes me a long time and a lot of thought and effort, but then someone like Pandakeen who has developed a lot more specialized skill can make something that looks fantastic in a relatively short time. You can't really tell just by looking at something how much effort it took.



It should also be addressed that there is an appeal for graphics-only changes. In the Minecraft community there are add-ons called "texture packs" or "resource packs" and all they do is change the graphics of the game, and in some cases the sounds. Their purpose is to give the game a fresh feeling or new atmosphere, or to change something one may not like about the original graphics, or to add something extra that may be helpful for a very specific task. There are texture packs of nearly every imaginable art style, aesthetic, and purpose. There are probably thousands upon thousands of them. This is in contrast to mods which add content like new building blocks, new "mobs" (Minecraft's parallel to "sprites" in Keen), new items, etc.

Mods and texture packs are both very popular in the Minecraft community, for different reasons. Both add or replace content, but with texture packs you don't have to relearn game mechanics (or even the entire game) as you do with some mods. Bringing it back to Commander Keen, graphics-only mods could be a nice change of pace for casual players who don't want to figure out how to deal with vicious new enemies or unpredictable and unstable mechanics or slog through myriad death traps as so many of our mods are infamous for. Most modders are diehard Keen fans with a lot of skill at the game (plus there's also the skill that comes with changing the game for yourself and learning how it works) and thus many mods really aren't beginner-friendly.

For an example of a graphics replacement mod: Pandakeen's Keen 1 Redrawn. The author has even stated that (for the base version) the artwork will be compatible with "all Keen 1 mods that don't change the graphics." This adds a whole other dimension of content in that the new graphics can be mixed with new levels by the player's own choice.

For another example, Zilem's Commander Kylie skins. I remember seeing a heated discussion on KeenWiki over whether these should be included. I haven't actually played these so I can't speak firsthand for what the appeal is, but some people like the change. One guy that was doing livestreams of the original Keen games used these mods instead of the original graphics. So despite the lack of inclusion on KeenWiki, they've gained enough recognition on their own to be found and played. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... a4VUo1mpbX



In conclusion, I absolutely think that skin mods should be allowed on KeenWiki. Their new content may be only "skin-deep," but that doesn't imply any lack of quality. I daresay that they have the potential to be some of the most appealing mods if done well.

Now, I could also go on about KeenWiki's policies on betas, but that's for another time.
Quillax wrote: proYorp raises some really good points! From what I've seen of Minecraft, skin mods (or "skin packs" as they call it) seem to be very popular and can be pretty creative. I think Doom also had (don't know if it still does today) a lot of mods that only changed graphics and/or sounds. I was actually reminded of a group of skin mods someone made for Super Mario World, where each mod followed a specific theme, such as Zelda and Christmas. Although it seems they were intended to be used by SMW modders for full mods rather than as just skin mods (the tilesets seem to be left unmodified for one), there's a lot of creativity and effort in those graphics! I actually haven't tried out any of those skin mods, but I have looked at the sprite sheet several times and it's always quite a spectacle to behold! I actually think it would be fun to play those skin mods and look at all the new graphics in action, even if the levels are unchanged! Perhaps Keen could also see something like this! :) Just imagine, we could have a Keen 1 skin mod with Halloween graphics or Duke Nukem 1-style graphics! Or we could have a candy-themed Keen Dreams skin mod! Or, heck, maybe someone will make a Kirby Super Star-themed Keen 4 skin mod or a Duck Dodgers-themed Keen 5 skin mod! I'd actually play those if they were to be made. :) I probably wouldn't play them all the way through, but as proYorp pointed out, there are some people who would love to do a casual playthrough with new graphics for a change.
Pandakeen wrote: Perhaps KeenWiki could have polls for whenever a mod that falls into a gray area is considered. If the poll is in favor of the mod being added, it gets added. This could be a problem though, if there's not enough people around to vote or if someone creates several alt accounts if they really want their Keen 4: Green Bounders edition to be added, but the latter is unlikely. Maybe require a limit of 10-15 different votes before action is taken.
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